Photo: Georgia Department of Education

If you do a word search (ctrl f) of Georgia’s new federal education plan for the word “accountability”, the word appears 55 times throughout the 94 page document.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released their new plan to comply with the new federal education law, Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA), which will replace the No Child Left Behind law passed in 2001.  ESSA was signed into law by President Obama in  December of 2015.

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It is unclear the level of scrutiny the plans will get under the Trump Administration, but Georgia is asking the public to give comments for 30 days, closing on July 14, 2017.

Earlier this year, Superintendent Woods decided to postpone the state’s plan from an April deadline to the Sept. 30, 2017 deadline for final submission to the USDOE.  When President Trump became elected, Woods decided to extend the deadline to September using the new template offered by the Trump Administration under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Currently, about a third of the states have released their plan to the United States Department of Education (USDOE) for review. According to the State School Superintendent, Richard Woods, the new law, ESSA, offers flexibility in other areas, but some requirements, such as testing mandates, remain.

Last year, the GaDOE conducted eight public listening sessions throughout the state and conducted surveys to gather opinions from Georgians. The process of creating the state’s ESSA plan was conducted by a State Advisory Committee and six working committees made up of students, parents, teachers, school leaders, state agencies, nonprofits and civic organizations, business, and education advocacy groups.

State School Superintendent Woods states that the ESSA plan takes Georgia’s education system from a “compliance to one focused on service and support.”

“I deeply appreciate the involvement of many of Georgia’s teachers, parents, school and district representatives, and community members in the ESSA public feedback process,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I want to ask and encourage everyone who has already been involved to stay engaged with us as this work continues, and for anyone who has not yet been involved, I would ask you to be a part of the public review process moving forward. We can’t create a plan that serves students well unless we’re all working together.”

At First Glance:

Sub-groups of students for accountability:

GaDOE has its own state accountability plan known as the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). When reviewing the new ESSA plan, the GaDOE will be using a minimum number of 15 students in a sub-category (or sub-group) to report for state accountability purposes, meanwhile other states are using between 20 and 30 students for this category.

According to the GaDOE ESSA plan, 15 students is considered to be a number that complies with the student privacy laws and ensures “reliability of data.” Interestingly, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, is using 10 students per sub-category rather than 15.

Course Acceleration Opportunities:

Georgia’s new ESSA plan allows for greater flexibility for course acceleration using the state’s dual enrollment plan known as Move On When Ready. Students in middle school will be able to get credit for high school courses and high school students will be able to take college level courses for high school credit as part of the state’s new accountability plan under ESSA. Furthermore, there is also opportunities for advance course work for sciences as well. Such opportunities appear to show that Georgia’s plan meets high expectations for standards and advanced coursework for the new federal law.

Teacher Evaluation/Teacher Equity:

The teacher evaluation system appears to not be changing that much. The current evaluation system was created and aligned to the Race to The Top policies under the Obama Administration. However, recent state law has changed the percentage of students’ test scores counting toward the teacher’s evaluation from 50 percent to 30 percent.

The new ESSA plan anticipates that Georgia will ensure students are gaining access to quality teachers using the incorporation of an online equity dashboard that will be made available to districts to track equity. In other words, making sure the best teachers are accessible to struggling areas within a school district.

School “turnaround” (Comprehensive Support & Improvement) is in the new ESSA Plan:

Even though 152 of 159 counties voted down Amendment 1 ( AKA: Opportunity School District) in November of 2016, Governor Deal’s new “school turnaround law” is in the state’s new accountability plan for the federal government. This includes the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state making below 60 percent on the the CCRPI for the three most recent consecutive years.

Read more from the new draft. The final plan will go to the USDOE in September of this year.


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Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns.  Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. He and his wife have lived in Camden County for 17 years, and they have two teenage children. Jeremy and his family live in St. Marys, GA and attend the Harbour Worship Center in Kingsland.


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